Understanding Constructive Criticism

To learn how to properly give and receive constructive criticism, you must first understand what it is. Constructive criticism is adequate feedback, backed up by concrete examples, to help you improve in a particular area. Constructive criticism should be given in a respectful and benevolent tone. Ideally, the person from whom constructive criticism comes should also be ready to help think through possible solutions and further measures in order to competently use the opportunities of this tool of personal growth.

It is important to note that constructive criticism does not and should not be negative. And although it is not always positive, such criticism should be focused on creation, not destruction.

The benefits of constructive criticism

Even if it is ideal advice, giving and receiving constructive criticism is never easy. But you shouldn’t avoid this kind of feedback just because it’s so difficult. Constructive criticism helps both you and the person you give it to grow personally and professionally.

In fact, constructive criticism strengthens your relationship rather than destroys it. 

Implementing constructive criticism creates an atmosphere of openness and trust. Not every conversation with colleagues is easy, but challenging conversations are an essential component of a successful team.

At , feedback of all types is an important part of our culture.Every company has different values and ways of working. But being open to constructive and honest dialogue will help you overcome the psychological barrier, gain trust and build closer rapport with your colleagues.

9 tips on how to give constructive criticism

Anyone can give constructive criticism, but in order to do so, it’s important to approach the conversation the right way. If you haven’t yet had to give criticism in this way, check out these 10 tips on how to make criticism helpful, constructive, and welcoming.

  1. Recommended: Speaking in the first person

Speaking in the first person allows you to express your opinion by focusing on the situation, not the person in question. Speaking in the first person implies using phrases such as “I believe…” or “In my opinion…” instead of “You said…” or “you did…”.

Speaking in the first person makes the criticism less personal and draws on your own experience. By formulating each sentence in the first person, you emphasize that you are sharing your thoughts and opinions, rather than stating objective facts. This will help reduce the self-protective effect that often occurs with any criticism, and make the feedback more productive.

  1. Recommendation: Formulate criticism in a way that implies taking practical action

The purpose of constructive criticism is so that the person can do something to remedy the situation. In addition to pointing out shortcomings that could be corrected, constructive criticism contains ideas and actions that the person can implement to further develop his or her skills. When giving feedback, let it be known that you are willing to continue the dialogue and to consider further action if it will help the person to whom such feedback is addressed.

  1. It is not advisable to express criticism in public.

Even perfectly worded criticism can be difficult to accept, especially if the person you are talking to has spent a lot of time and effort doing their job. For feedback to be constructive and helpful, you need to start the conversation with how your interlocutor can improve the situation.

Such a conversation will not be possible if it is conducted in public. Instead of engaging in dialogue, the person may become embarrassed, huddled, or shut down from the attack. And then he’ll go on the defensive and simply won’t take the feedback.

  1. It is recommended: to make positive comments if they are appropriate

Constructive criticism should not be exclusively negative. Noting what was done well is also very helpful. This allows you to hone your strengths and work through your weaknesses.

  1. Not recommended: to drag the positive by the ears

Constructive feedback is not about showering the person with meaningless compliments, but about helping them improve and move forward.

Insincere feedback can be perceived as unhelpful, making it difficult to provide further feedback.

  1. Recommended: give criticism in the form of a conversation

Constructive criticism is worthless if it does not involve an exchange of views. The point of having a first-person conversation is to give feedback based on your perceptions. That said, the person you’re talking to may have a different point of view. Give the person the opportunity to ask why you feel that way, and how he or she can improve the situation with that criticism in mind. 

  1. Recommended: Criticism should be given in a timely manner.

Constructive criticism is useful if it is given at once. It allows you to discuss the situation before it is forgotten. If feedback is delayed too long, it loses relevance and becomes much less useful. Try to give your feedback within 2-7 days of the situation arising.

  1. Not recommended: provide ill-conceived feedback

While providing timely feedback is really important, you shouldn’t do it thoughtlessly. Even if you had a moment of insight and immediately realized how you could fix the situation, wait at least one day and carefully formulate the criticism to be constructive and positive. 

  1. Recommended: Use a friendly tone and gestures

The ultimate goal of criticism is to help the person change something for the better. Although giving criticism is never easy, make sure that the tone used is friendly and the gestures are non-aggressive.

It can be uncomfortable at first to give constructive criticism, so you can try to rehearse what you are going to say and think through your pitch.

Seven Steps to Accepting Constructive Criticism

Let’s say you’ve learned how to give constructive criticism. But what about accepting it? Accepting constructive criticism without closing yourself off from it can be quite a challenge. Even if you recognize that the feedback is meant to help you, it is human nature to defend oneself against criticism, even if it is helpful.

But to be prepared to adequately accept even sudden constructive criticism (unless it is destructive), follow these six steps:

  1. Don’t respond to criticism instantly. Feedback can activate an anti-stressor defense mechanism, so that an initially constructive conversation can only trigger an adrenaline rush. Before responding to criticism, take a deep breath and try to restrain your desire to respond or argue.
  2. If necessary, remind yourself that constructive criticism helps you become a better person. Even if constructive criticism comes at you out of the blue, remember that it is in your own best interest.
  3. Listen to the person you are talking to understand, not to argue. When someone gives you constructive criticism, listen without responding or closing yourself off from that criticism. Remember that when giving criticism, the person wants to help you, so try to listen without prejudice.
  4. The criticism you give refers to the business you are doing, not to you personally. We often take criticism personally because we think it is us who are being criticized. But in a business environment, constructive criticism is usually directed at what you do. Good feedback helps to improve performance, it’s usually not as personal as it may seem.
  5. Be thankful for feedback. Providing constructive feedback is not easy. Thank the person for their efforts and willingness to help you.
  6. Ask questions, but don’t challenge criticism. While feedback should not be challenged or refuted, it is fine to ask questions and discuss ways to improve the situation.

If you’re not ready to ask right after receiving criticism, that’s okay, too. Arrange another meeting to further explore options for improvement.Properly delivered, effective criticism helps to create a healthy team atmosphere and promotes good teamwork. This happens because members of cohesive teams are open and honest with each other and aren’t afraid to talk about real things.

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